On Robert Dziekanski’s death by Taser at the hands of the RCMP at Vancouver International Airport

by Yule Heibel on November 17, 2007

Below, several articles that report on this matter. I watched the video two days ago, it’s shocking on several levels. It’s a record of stupidity aggregating into calamity — the endless prattle of the moron in the background, insisting that Dziekanski is speaking Russian, alerting us to every detail (“he threw a chair” blah blah blah), and who is clearly chomping at the bit for action of some sort: that is the sound of the devil’s lowest minion hissing into your ear. Frightening, that people can be so stupid. When the RCMP arrives, the stupidity is complete, and thoroughly evil.

Where’s the accountability? In one of the articles, RCMP Cpl. Dale Carr actually has the gall to complain that people are being mean to him by complaining about the RCMP officers’ actions. (Boo-hoo, Cpl. Carr.) Oh, so this is what we do in Canada, eh? We don’t take responsibility, we whine about being picked on? And as for the airport staff — they’ve got their union to protect their hide. No one there will step up, no manager is going to go and commit seppuko on the runway for having a staff that lets a passenger wait, unattended, for nearly 10 hours in a holding area (after what was probably a 15-hour journey), dehydrated, sleep-deprived, and disoriented. Oh no, heaven forbid anyone should step up and actually admit that he or she fucked up.

It’s not just the RCMP, everybody was in on this one.

It’s also very interesting to see how individuality and reason break down in a group dynamic like this. The woman who approaches Dziekanski and tries to talk to him is the only one showing compassion. For the others, it looks like it’s just …spectacle.

From UPI: Report: Cops broke rules in Taser death

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Nov. 16 (UPI) — Police officers involved in the Taser death of a man at the Vancouver airport appear to have violated recommendations in a 2005 report.

Robert Dziekanski, an immigrant from Poland, died Oct. 14 after being stunned with the electric shock weapon. The incident was recorded on video.

The video shows that Dziekanski, who apparently became agitated after waiting at the airport for several hours for his mother to meet him, was not a danger to anyone else. Dziekanski was shocked twice and the four Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers then restrained him face down, with two of them kneeling on his neck and back.

The British Columbia police complaint commissioner said in 2005 that police should only use Tasers on people who pose a threat to others or were actively resisting arrest, The Vancouver Province reported. The report said there should be no multiple shocks, and after using a Taser police should be careful not to restrain subjects in any way that would impede their breathing.

A woman who witnessed the incident told the Toronto Globe & Mail that Dziekanski’s agitation appeared to be a product of language difficulties and that an interpreter would have been able to calm him down.

From the Canadian Press: Victoria man who shot airport Taser video says experience changing his life:

VICTORIA – Paul Pritchard was on an emergency flight home to Victoria to help his ailing father when he was confronted by another real-life emergency at Vancouver airport that changed his life.

The 25-year-old teacher arrived on a flight from China and stumbled into a deadly drama, recording with his video camera the final moments of a Polish immigrant who died after being shot by an RCMP Taser stun gun.

Pritchard says the video has helped him realize it’s time to get serious about his future and his proud father says his son has always had his feet squarely planted on the ground and a deep sense of what’s right.

Pritchard’s video of events leading up to the death of Robert Dziekanski on Oct. 14 raced around the world on the Internet and on TV broadcasts after it was released Wednesday.

The Mounties themselves called it the single best record they had of what happened early that Sunday morning in a near empty international arrivals area, though investigators insist it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Still, the emotional public reaction to the video and the furious political debate surrounding the police’s use of Tasers convinces Pritchard changes are afoot when it comes to the current use of weapons by police.

“Something good is going to come out of it,” Pritchard said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“For me, to have a part in changing something at a national level is huge. This is definitely … changing my life.”

Pritchard’s father John, who is dying of an illness neither he nor his son would discuss, said he’s proud of how his son handled the battle to regain control of the video from police and the intense spotlight he’s been under for a month as a result.

“He’s always had a sense of fairness and loyalty about being bullied,” said John Pritchard.

“He would never back down, like in school. He would never back down to older boys who wanted to push him around.”

Pritchard leaped to prominence soon after the Taser incident when he went public with complaints the RCMP had reneged on a promise to return the video recording, which he handed over voluntarily, within 48 hours. Police gave it back after he threatened legal action.

The recording was made public Wednesday evening and the major Canadian TV networks paid Pritchard a small fee for its use.

The Canadian Press was also given a copy and posted it for use by its online news clients but did not pay a fee.

Pritchard was whisked to New York on Thursday to tape appearances on U.S. network television.

“I woke up this morning and did a couple of phone interviews and all of a sudden I’m flying to New York,” he said Thursday.

Pritchard said he’s considering becoming a reporter now after spending the last two years travelling and teaching English in China.

“I’m looking into a journalism route now,” he said. “I’m really interested in how the media has worked. I’ve got to see the whole media side of things and it’s kind of sparked an interest in me.”

Pritchard said he’s been content until now to travel, but it’s now time to make long-term plans.

“I was travelling around the world,” he said. “I had a couple years left in me. My plans, I was moving to India after China. I was going to South America after that.”

John Pritchard said his son has always stuck to his principles and his determination to ensure the public saw the video is a sign of that inner strength.

“He’s not always made the right decision, like all teenagers,” he said. “But there’s also a very sensitive side to him which I don’t think he lets come through that often.”

He said he’s seen pictures of Paul teaching children in China and the Philippines that show his caring side.

Paul Pritchard said he leaned on his father for guidance after witnessing the Taser incident. He said it was his father who gave him the phone number of a lawyer to contact about getting his video back.

“I needed someone’s influence and help in these situations with my choices, for most of them anyway,” said Pritchard.

“I’ve got a father who’s dying … It’s really brought us together at a pivotal point in my life, our life.”

A cultural analyst at the University of Victoria’s English faculty said Pritchard should guard against being caught up and spit out of a media whirlwind.

He must remember he was a witness to an extraordinary event and he’s not an expert in police tactics or dealing with traumatic situations, said Prof. Kim Blank.

“He’s become somewhat of a celebrity just by the fact of witnessing something,” he said.

Blank said he can’t say if the Taser incident will end up changing Pritchard’s life.

“It may open up some doors. It may make him interested in something he wasn’t interested in before,” he said. “But he may feel he ends up getting used. People can go from naivete to experience very quickly in this.”

John Pritchard said everything has happened so quickly that he and his son haven’t had the chance to talk about the pros and cons of the video experience.

“I’m just myself wondering now how he views the outcome of all of this and where it’s going to go,” he said.

But Pritchard said he’s extremely proud of what his son has done.

“I can’t walk very far at the moment, so he takes me shopping,” he said. “He’s been a really really good son and I’m very proud of him, very thankful he came home.”

From CBC news: Few answers from Airport Customs union in Taser death:

Can’t explain why no one offered help to connect Dziekanski, mother

Last Updated: Friday, November 16, 2007 | 6:54 PM ET


The head of the union representing customs officers at the Vancouver airport says it was unusual no one offered to help Robert Dziekanski connect with his mother the night he died, after being stunned with a Taser by the RCMP.

Before police arrived, Robert Dziekanski picked up a small table and put it in the doorway between the customs exit area and a public lounge.Before police arrived, Robert Dziekanski picked up a small table and put it in the doorway between the customs exit area and a public lounge.
(Paul Pritchard)

George Scott, vice-president with the Customs Excise Union, told CBC News he can’t explain why nobody was willing to check where Dziekanski was on the night of October 14, despite repeated requests from his mother.

“It’s something that wouldn’t be hard to find out,” Scott told CBC News on Thursday said. “We certainly do have the resources.”

The comments from the union leader are the first public statement about Canada Border Services Agency conduct during the incident.

The agency has remained silent about how Dzeikanski went unnoticed for more than eight hours in the highly controlled customs and passport area inside the immigration hall at the airport.

Meanwhile on the other side of the wall, Dziekanski’s mother Sofia Cisowski spent more than six hours in the international arrivals lounge that night trying desperately — even crying to officials — to persuade anyone at the airport to help her make contact with her son.

“I was asking the woman and she said do not worry because security people or somebody else… they’ll find him,” Cisowski told CBC news.

But nobody did. Larry Berg, the Vancouver Airport C.E.O was also unable to explain why airport staff would not help Cisowski contact her son in the immigration hall.

Airport staff refused to help mother find son

“I can’t speak for everybody who works at the airport that was in involved that evening. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me,” Berg told CBC News last week. “We’re going to…wait for the coroner’s report before we make any conclusions or decisions relative to that.”

Berg said staff did eventually page Dziekanski, but used a public address system that did not broadcast in the secure customs area controlled by the CBSA.

Cisowski said she was sure here son was inside the secure customs area waiting for her by the baggage carousel because she had told him specifically to wait for her there.

But she later found out the public could not access that area, and she turned to airport officials for help to make contact with her son, who spoke only Polish and had never been on a plane before.

After her repeated requests for help were turned down at the first airport help desk, Cisowski told CBC News she went to the CBSA office in the waiting area near the international arrivals lounge.

But when officials there checked a computer, they told her told there was no sign of her son, even though records would later show he had pass through the primary passport check into the area.

Mother advised to go home

She then found a second airport help kiosk and made several more requests for help making contact with her son, but eventually she was told he was not there, and she should go home.

At around 10:30 p.m., she drove back to Kamloops.

Around the same time, Dziekanski finally made his way to the secondary customs check inside the secure customs area, where he was redirected to immigration control, and eventually emerged from the customs area around midnight.

An hour later an agitated and confused Dziekanski was confronted by the police. Within 30 seconds they stunned him at least twice with a Taser. He died a minute and half later.

Currently there are four investigations into the death underway, by the B.C. coroner’s service, the RCMP, the public complaints commissioner of the RCMP and the Vancouver international Airport.

The Canada Border Services Agency has not said if it is conducting an investigation of its own.

From the Canadian Press: Police statements differ from what video shows of Taser death:Amnesty Int’l:


Police statements differ from what video shows of Taser death:Amnesty Int?l

VANCOUVER – There are too many differences between what police told the public and what a video shows of the fatal night RCMP used a Taser to subdue a frantic Polish immigrant at Vancouver’s airport, critics say.

Amnesty International Canada is calling for an independent investigation and an expert in police force says the Oct. 14 incident and the video released this week raise serious concerns that need to be addressed.

“For me, it (the video) raises a lot of questions as to how decisions were made going into that incident because what you appear to see is that they show up and move to Taser somebody,” Hilary Homes of Amnesty International said from Ottawa.

Robert Dziekanski died minutes after being zapped twice by a Taser-wielding officer in the airport’s international arrivals area.

Police were called because Dziekanski had been acting strangely after spending hours waiting vainly to meet his mother.

The video shows Dziekanski, who spoke only Polish, trying to barricade himself into the secure area of the arrivals terminal while bystanders try to communicate with him.

Immediately after the incident, Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre, spokesman for the RCMP’s E Division, said three Mounties tried to hold Dziekanski down after approaching him in a secure area of the airport.

In fact, the video shows four officers confronting the agitated Dziekanski and backing him up to a counter inside the terminal’s secure area. The Taser was deployed within a minute of police confronting him.

It’s unclear whether Lemaitre meant officers tried to subdue him before he was shot with the Taser or afterwards.

The video shows the four Mounties piling on to a fallen Dziekanski after he was zapped.

Lemaitre wasn’t available for comment Thursday.

The video shows the officers crowding around the fallen man as he writhed and moaned. At least one of them appeared to put his full weight on the man’s neck.

Dziekanski eventually stopped moving and the video ends soon after a man in a suit bends over to see if he had a pulse.

Traveller Paul Pritchard, who shot the video, said officers seemed to come prepared to zap Dziekanski.

“As they ran in, I heard one of the officers say, ‘Can I Taser him, should I Taser?’ before they actually even got to Mr. Dziekanski,” said Pritchard, who lives in Victoria.

Homes said 17 Canadians have died after being shot by a Taser, which jolts the body with 50,000 volts and is often used to subdue people deemed dangerous to police, themselves or others.

But she said the video clearly shows Dziekanski wasn’t a threat to anybody and the footage does not indicate Mounties tried to restrain him before he was shot, if that’s what Lemaitre meant.

A report published by Amnesty International in May says all police departments should stop using Tasers until thorough studies have been done on its effects.

RCMP Cpl. Dale Carr said he doesn’t understand why people would think Dziekanski was shot with the Taser prematurely.

“How much time does one need to make an assessment that there is potential of danger or potential of somebody being harmed?”

Carr wouldn’t comment on whether the four Mounties could have used other tactics to deal with Dziekanski, who does not appear to threaten them and at one point backs away.

“The whole basis of our investigation is to get to the bottom of how Mr. Dziekanski ended up in the state that he did: deceased,” said Carr, who speaks for the RCMP homicide unit investigating the death.

“We want to answer those questions but they’re not going to be answered through the media.”

He said a coroner’s inquest, which has yet to be scheduled, would answer a crucial question about why the officers involved didn’t use other means of trying to subdue Dziekanski.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “That’s a question for those officers while they’re under oath at the inquest.”

Carr said he’s been getting angry calls about the incident from “people who feel that they have the right to call me and blast me.”

“I suspect they’re making conclusions, based on one piece of evidence and they’re not waiting, perhaps, for all of the evidence to come out down the road and that’s unfortunate.”

He said the video is a strong piece of evidence but it’s only one side of the story.

Carr wouldn’t say if police have a video recording of their own of the incident that has generated buzz on radio talk shows and led to a website called Justice for Robert Dziekanski.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said the RCMP is reviewing the practices related to Taser use and that a report is being prepared.

Day is waiting to see the conclusions of that report before commenting.

Michael Lyman, a professor in the criminal justice and forensic science department at Columbia College in Missouri, said the video shows Dziekanski to be in crisis but that he certainly didn’t pose a threat to the four police officers.

“I don’t see where the officers made any attempts to rush him or to control him physically through the use of soft-handed control techniques as in simply just holding him and securing him without having to resort to any weaponry,” he said.

Lyman, who has testified in hundreds of cases in the United States involving proper use of police force, said he’s particularly concerned about a Mountie putting his full weight on Dziekanski after he’s been flailing on the floor.

“That is very, very dangerous because persons have difficulty breathing when an officer places weight on them, especially on a hard floor.”

Lyman said many questions need answers in what has become a huge international story.

“We have to just take a breath and consider what the police might have known about this person, if anything, prior to their arrival.

“How did they receive their message? Was there anybody else that might have come to them and said, ‘This person’s going to hurt somebody?’

“I’d like to approach a situation like this from the standpoint of listening to what the police have to say but holding them accountable for their actions that are clearly depicted by what we see on the video.”

Quote, from above:

Carr said he’s been getting angry calls about the incident from “people who feel that they have the right to call me and blast me.”

Oh, boo-hoo Mr Carr, that must really hurt. Almost as much as getting tasered?

From AP: Cameraman Changes Mind About Taser Death:


Cameraman Changes Mind About Taser Death

TORONTO (AP) — Videotaping the last moments of a Polish immigrant’s life, Paul Pritchard thought the police were 100 percent right to use a Taser stun gun to subdue the man.

That was a month ago, before the police returned the videotape they borrowed from Pritchard, a Canadian who had filmed Robert Dziekanski’s death.

Now that Pritchard has watched his own tape — and no longer believes Dziekanski posed any threat of violence — he condemns the police use of a stun gun just 46 seconds after confronting Dziekanski at the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“At the time I thought it was the right thing,” Pritchard said Friday. “I thought it was more of a standoff, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t like that at all.”

A coroner’s inquest has been called and police have launched an investigation. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have said they are reviewing Taser use; 18 people have died in Canada after being hit with a Taser in the last four years.

Dziekanski, 40, of Gliwice, Poland, arrived at the airport Oct. 14. It was his first flight, and was to be the start of a new life with his mother in western Canada.

But Dziekanski, who spoke only Polish, began acting erratically at the airport. He apparently became upset when he didn’t see his mother in the secure baggage area — which she was not allowed to enter.

She had told him to wait for her there, and he did, for about 10 hours. When she could not find anyone to help her get to the secure area, and he did not emerge, she thought he had missed his flight and she left the airport.

Pritchard pulled out his camera after watching Dziekanski pace back and forth. Dziekanski threw a computer to the ground, and he lined up chairs, a small wooden table and a clipboard along glass doors that separated the secure zone from the public waiting area.

“He was acting erratically,” said Pritchard. “I saw what I saw, but I didn’t realize the seriousness until I got the footage back. He wasn’t acting violent in any way. That’s what is most disturbing.”

Robert Szaniawski, a spokesman for Poland’s Foreign Ministry, said Poland has asked Canada for an explanation of Dziekanski’s death.

“We believe that the use of Taser on Mr. Dziekanski was excessively brutal and unjustified,” Szaniawski said. “No attempts were made to use other means to solve the situation but from the very start the toughest means available to the police was used. We want the matter clarified and we want those guilty named and prosecuted.”

The video shows:

_Dziekanski acting confused for several minutes before four police officers arrive and vault over a railing and confront an agitated Dziekanski behind the glass doors. Loud cries of what sound like “polizia,” can be heard as the officers are told by someone that the man only speaks Russian.

_The officers stand before him and Dziekanski throws his hands in the air and walks away, and the officers follow, apparently indicating he should put his hands on a desk top. Dziekanski stands with his back to the counter and the officers surround him before they use a Taser stun gun on him and he falls, screaming in pain.

_A voice is heard yelling, “Hit him again, hit him again.” The four officers clamber on top of him, restraining his arms and his head, as Dziekanski twitches. Finally, he is still.

Pritchard turned over the video to police that day and was told he would get it back within 48 hours. When police later refused he hired a lawyer. He got it back on Wednesday following a court order.

Pritchard said police told him they didn’t want the video to taint potential witness testimony. Pritchard didn’t believe it.

“There’s obviously something that they didn’t want the public to see which is why we took the steps to get it,” Pritchard said by telephone from New York City.

Police Cpl. Dale Carr said the video is just one small piece of evidence. “Although the video is compelling and does demonstrate a great deal of what went on there, it’s only one piece of evidence,” said Carr.

“There are a number of other witnesses that have an account and we are interested in getting to the bottom of it,” he said. “We want people to make judgment on the totality of all of the evidence and that will be shared at the inquest.”

I haven’t arranged these articles in any particular order. They tell a balanced story, I think.



{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

avi tanny November 19, 2007 at 12:00 pm

It is horrible to see such a miscarriage of justice. I can agree he was acting suspiciously, but there are other ways to subdue someone. He did have a visible weapon on his person, so why the need to taser him?. 50,000 volts is a little unecessary for a suspicious person who in the end was just waiting for his mother>?

Robert Randall November 19, 2007 at 2:14 pm

What may have played a role in the officers’ haste was the apparent imminent arrival in that holding area of several hundred Cathay Pacific passengers.

Rick A November 24, 2007 at 3:37 pm

Robert Dziekanski an innocent man was abused and killed by RCMP cowardice and arrogance. Even as the RCMP was watching the tape they were standing in front of national TV lying to all of us. They were so confident that they could suppress the release of this video that they had already started the cover-up. When they were forced to release the video tape their lying cover up operation was blown. This looks like an elaborate cover-up operation. That essentially is a de facto admission of guilt. Shame, shame, shame. The very organization that is supposed to lead by example is guilty of gross misconduct. There is no second chance here; lie and you are guilty. The court of public opinion has done the right thing by finding them guilty.

tomax7 March 30, 2008 at 3:25 pm

Dziekanski lay dying after Taser hit as border agent scoured airport for him

OTTAWA — A border services officer who spoke a few words of Robert Dziekanski’s native tongue may have come within minutes of helping avert the Polish immigrant’s death, newly released documents show.


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